Pretty Day in the Big Empty

The sky is clouded over. The smoke has dispersed. The wind is blowing from the west. Drops are falling. The temperature is cool. Teddy got a new harness as a present. Clearly the imperative is jaunt to the Big Empty.

It was lovely. No dramatic photos, but this beautiful primrose was blooming by the road and Teddy is, of course, superlatively cute.

Walking with Teddy is a different experience from walking with Bear, but it’s still fun. He’s alert in a completely different way and his method for showing his happiness is as over-the-top as his personality. He just stops in front of me, stands on his back legs, wraps his forelegs around my arms and looks at me in adoration.

For that he gets a big hug.

No cranes today, but HUNDREDS of Canada geese moving from pond to pond.

I also found a huge nest fairly low in a cottonwood tree. I’m pretty sure it’s a magpie nest since they LOVE the four or five trees that line the road in one spot, there was a male in those trees in the spring ACTIVELY begging for love last spring. and photos on the sagacious Internet look a lot like what I saw. Like this…

Today we heard a truck coming and turned out it was driven by a friend. Seeing friends in these times is just incredible, and that should remain the case when this bizarreness is over.

Quotidian Update 43.9.iv.7

WordPress wants more clams for my OTHER blog, My plan NOW is to create a new landing page for THIS blog and pages for books and paintings. Since its inception a few years ago, I don’t think my “website” has garnered a dozen followers. I started making those changes yesterday, but a migraine interceded and you don’t stare at a screen long when you eyes and brain are giving you someone else’s acid trip.

In other news, driven by the migraine (???) I called another number to get help with my yard. And guess what…

As you see, Teddy is completely confused. It’s a really nice yard. I wish so much it were more accessible directly from the house. To get to it, you go out the back door, down a long ramp and through a gate. It’s quieter than “my” yard where the deck is and shady most of the day. I originally set it up as a garden and there’s a little cement slab I thought could be a patio but it’s just annoying. I think next year, though, I’m going to put the vegetables out there because there’s more sunlight.

Getting rid of the storm damage and making the yard safe from the coming autumn winds that may (god willing) be followed by snow was a job. The guy cut down most of two elm trees, dealt with the one threatening my garage and hauled everything away. He has another job here next month. Really nice guy, too. Everything I wanted in someone to help me with this stuff.

You can all relax now knowing that things here in the Back of Beyond are going on more or less normally. I hope the same for all of you.

Parental Advice

I don’t know how many girls get relationship advice from their dad more than from their mom, but I did. My dad had only ONE piece of advice and it found many ways to give it — little talks when we were in the car together, pop songs, at the supermarket, probably more. His words of advice were, “With men, MAK, follow the Monroe Doctrine.”


“Well the Monroe Doctrine, honey, established the policy that the United States would not enter into binding contracts with foreign powers. It would form ‘no entangling alliances’.”

“What’s an ‘entangling’ alliances?”

“It’s an alliance that you can’t get out of. Remember, MAK. No entangling alliances.”

My mom, on the other hand, when she DID give advice, just said, “Your dad doesn’t understand that women are different.”

I think he’d figured that out, wink wink.

Then this song came out and my dad bought me the 45.


Six years ago today, I arrived in Colorado, having made my exit from Hotel California with my Muttley Crew — Lily, Dusty, and Mindy.

Dusty and Mindy

Exit is more straight-forward than arrival, especially when it’s irrevocable and the result of a decision driven by necessity. Arrival is a little more complicated. Sometime this past year, I fully arrived in Colorado psychically. You don’t abandon 30 years of your life in an instant. I think I arrived when I was doing my reading from As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder at the Narrow Gauge Book Coop last October.

Life is a strange thing. You can be going along and everything is fine. Things get a little rocky, so you make hundreds of small adjustments and you keep on. Then something happens that nullifies all the small adjustments, and you are suddenly in the midst of a major life change.

I was propelled out of my (happy) life in a truly desperate moment. I lost my main job due to some Machievellian machinations by the college of business in which I taught. The income I needed to hold my life together wasn’t just threatened; it was gone. Not just mine; but three other teachers with contracts were upgefucht, but they were not sole-providers. They were married to someone who was employed. A little different situation.

I remember my first thought was to attempt a continuation of small-adjustments to keep the life going, but then it was clear, “This party’s over, sweet cheeks.” All of my attention then went to making the huge change as quickly as possible.

So there I was, September 20, 2014, rolling into the parking lot of the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colorado, where I’d rented a cabin for at least a month. I called it “My Giant Dog Crate in the Mountains” because, well, three pretty big dogs took up most of the living room.

It was nice, the perfect place for us to land. Not home, not not home. I began the process of living in Colorado, in a place I didn’t know, where everyone was a stranger. I’m a Colorado native, but it was impossible for me to afford a home in any of the places I’d lived before. Necessity drove me to Heaven. ❤

Lily T. Wolf and Mindy T. Dog happy to have landed.

I’d thought this morning that I would write about independence. I recently read a meme that said that extreme independence was the result of trauma. It listed a bunch of causes, life events, that make a person turn to themselves instead of others. There were six on the list and four of them happened in my life, a couple more than once. Those that applied to me were abandonment/loss, abuse, experiencing a natural disaster and witnessing death. The meme led to an article in Psychology Today. I read it. It said that such a person had lost the ability to trust and needed to work to rebuild that.

My first thought was, “Why?” Isn’t it acquired knowledge that — for an example — a huge wildfire can come and threaten (or succeed) to wipe out your town, your house, your LIFE? Or that someone can say they love you and beat you up? That your nearest and dearest parent can suffer a terminal disease and die? Life is a pretty long litany of stuff that doesn’t pan out. What is the big deal with trust in an untrustworthy world? Does it make a person happier?

I wondered why independence is considered a pathology. Not long ago a friend said, “You’re extremely independent.” I asked her why she thought so, and she said, “You moved here all by yourself and you didn’t even know anyone.” I remembered my students telling me I wasn’t like other teachers. OK, but what are OTHER people like? How did other teachers teach? I have no idea. But, when sold my house and packed my stuff to move here, I heard all time time. “You’re so independent. I could never do what you’re doing.”

Friends thought I was embarking on a great adventure, like one of the early explorers setting out for unknown places across wild and mysterious oceans. They talked me into writing a blog about my “adventure.” “Adventure?” I was doing what I had to do.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I am extremely independent, but I still don’t get why that’s a bad thing.

Created Equal? Not Hardly

Thursday morning, not too long before I woke up, I had a teaching dream even though it’s been more than six years now since I entered a classroom. In my dream, I couldn’t find my class. I was frantic. I was late.

Yesterday morning I had my second art “class” with the kids. I was amazed I could have a teaching stress dream before THAT.

The plan for the day was we’d play the Drawing Game and then make a book to hold our Art Cards and the papers where we would write about the painting we’d chosen. The book was going to be two pieces of construction paper with pockets from a third piece of construction paper inside and everything stapled together. It was a pretty simple project, I thought. I remembered doing this in second grade when we’d struggled with the very tricky life skill of folding paper length and width wise. I truly remember LEARNING this. I figured since the kids make paper airplanes, this would be OK.

The first thing they wanted to do was play The Drawing Game — a game my dad made up where a group of people take turns saying what everyone will draw — and we have to make a coherent picture out of all these random drawings. Mine’s below. I’d have stolen the kids’, but they weren’t letting go. 🙂 It was the little girl’s turn first, and she wanted to draw Bear.

My Drawing Game sketch from yesterday

It’s important to note that I have no training in teaching kids. I taught college and university. I have no training in teaching art. I taught writing. I didn’t even HAVE kids, I’ve just been a kid magnet my whole life but no one knows why. I sure don’t.

I thought the best way to approach this project was to do it WITH THEM so I made one, too. The little boy followed along, made his book, had tremendous curiosity about the art cards that were turned upside down on our table. The little girl? I watched her very patiently fold five sheets of construction paper WRONG. She could SEE they had been folded wrong but couldn’t figure out WHY. She never got upset. She didn’t express any frustration. She just tried again.

I helped her see how to do it right, and showed her mine so she could see what we were trying to make. After another try, she folded the paper in the right direction but could not match up the edges.

Meanwhile my stapler wouldn’t work. The little boy set about fixing it, and succeeded.

Finally, the little girl got her book built. She began to write about her Art Card, one of Monet’s water lily paintings, and I helped her understand how to do this. I watched her write. It was extraordinarily difficult for her, not just spelling and reading, but the ACT of writing.

The little boy had finished his project, and I told him to find the country where the artist came from. I had flat maps and he wanted to know where Belgium was relative to Colorado. I said, “Dude, we need a globe.”

There was one on our table. He showed me all the countries he wanted to visit and how to play the “Globe Game” where you spin it and point at a country. His dream is a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids.

Meanwhile I’ve helped the little girl see that the name of the painting she’d chosen is Water Lilies, not Water Ladies. We learned to spell bushes.

Claude Monet Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies

When I left, besides all the stuff in my folder, I had a zip lock bag of Parmesan cheese because I’d told the little girl that Parmesan cheese was Bear’s favorite food. It was for Bear’s dinner. I promised to take a picture

The little girl is a year older than the little boy. I was stunned. I know these kids pretty well. The little girl is intelligent, but??? She has a physical malfunction that makes things difficult to do with the small muscles. and it affects her perception of spatial relationships. The simple task we were working on challenged everything.

I texted her mom when I got home saying I hoped it was OK that I challenged the little girl so intensely, that she seemed to have some serious problems with spatial relationships. Here’s what I got back:

How could anyone watch that and call it laziness or, as I suspected also could happen, “Not trying”?

I spent the rest of the day humbled, awakened to my great good fortune in the gifts with which I was born. When I walked Bear later that day, the kids were waiting with the drawing tablet I’d left behind. Bear sat so the little girl — who is only a little taller than Bear when Bear sits — could wrap her arms around Bear’s neck. You just wish you could freeze these moments of beauty, these perfect ephemeral moments.

Drawing Lesson 4 — Coloring Your Apple

I wasn’t able to resist coloring the apple I drew the other day. The challenge of making videos is satisfying my need to do something creative and productive right now… So…

It’s very revealing. You will see holes in my sweatshirt. You’ll see fingernails that have never had a manicure. I got the idea of doing this video after I came in from cleaning up the yard and didn’t think about the fact that I was wearing my oldest sweatshirt. Perfect attire for wrestling with unwelcome elm trees, though.

Here goes, I hope you enjoy it.

Drawing Lesson 3 — Blind contour drawing

Anyone who really wants to draw should draw every day. The exercise I posted yesterday with the apple is the ideal daily practice. No, you don’t always have to draw an apple. 😉

This is a pre-drawing exercise that focuses on training your eyes and hand to work together. The purpose is to warm up your drawing muscles, all of them.

If you’re doing these exercises, I’d love to see your drawings.

One thing that’s happening on this end, I’m getting better at making videos and using iMovie video editor.

Here’s the apple exercise if you missed it.

Tomorrow I might go into color. 🙂 Thanks for watching.

The Colorado Handsaw Massacre

One very good way to deal with frustration is with a pruning saw. The second day after the snowpocalypse of September 9 or 8 or whatever it was, I went out to the back yard — the dog’s yard — to see that essentially half my neighbor’s nasty Chinese elm had fallen onto the vintage clothesline pole.

Summer snow is heavy and when most of it lands in five hours on fully leafed trees? Ha.

I examined it as well as I could in 14 inches of snow and decided I had no clue and went back in the house. After all, I had about a gazillion other branches to deal with all along the alley.

In the fullness of time I was able to look at the mess and I saw it was way above my skill level and I walked away again. Frustrated.

But I went back. And I started sawing off branches and pulling stuff down that I could pull down safely. Every afternoon since, I’ve worked on that damned tree. I figured it was in my power to clean up a lot of the mess and make the yard safe for the dogs to play in and for me to clean up. It’s a lowly aspiration, but it’s mine.

My ally in the battle against the tree, frustration and hopelessness is this little guy.

So far we’ve accomplished a lot. I’m tying stuff up in bundles for the trash to take, all but two branches that are too big.

I’ve called a guy who’s coming tomorrow to give me an estimate on the BIG job and to check the roof of my garage.

Drawing Lesson 2 — Another Informal Drawing Lesson

For this lesson you need an apple, a pencil and a Conté crayon (or charcoal, chalk or a crayon). I apologize for the jumping around of the visual and the fact that the camera isn’t always “looking” at something. It was challenging for me to hold the phone, look at the subject (an apple) and show you my work. Maybe I’ll get better at it. 😀